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Smart improvements for child crash test dummy

January 31, 2010

As part of its touring auto show display, Ford Motor Company is showcasing new crash dummy components developed in collaboration with UMTRI and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Research associate professor Matthew Reed and assistant research scientist Kathleen Klinich of UMTRI's Biosciences Group used medical imaging data to develop new specifications for the pelvis of a Hybrid-III crash-test dummy that represents a typical six-year-old child.

The new specifications govern size and shape. To obtain the new proportions, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of the size and shape of pelvic bones of children from 5 to 12 years of age based on medical images, and then calculated the average pelvis size and shape for children similar in size to the crash-test dummy.

The new pelvis allows the dummy to simulate more accurately the interaction between a child and a seat belt. During frontal collisions, the lap portion of the seat belt should exert force on the bony pelvis, explained Reed, not on the soft abdomen.

"Belt pressure on the abdomen can cause injuries to the abdominal organs and spine fractures resulting in spinal-cord injury," said Reed. "The new pelvis design improves the sensitivity of the dummy to belt designs that put the abdomen and spine at risk. This makes the dummy respond to seat belts more like a child would respond.

photo of pelvis of 6-year-old Hybrid-III dummy

[Pictured above: Pelvis of 6-year-old Hybrid-III crash test dummy. Photo courtesy of UMTRI Biosciences. Display photo (top) by Chris Winkler.]

The modified dummy, which also features an instrumented abdomen developed by Ford, will be used to test the performance of belt-positioning booster seats and vehicle seat belts.

This work was funded under the ongoing cooperative agreement between NHTSA and UMTRI to support biomechanics research. As part of this work, UMTRI's Biosciences Group is working to improve other aspects of child crash-test dummy design, including the ribcage, shoulders, and spine.

The improved crash-test dummy will be tested by Ford, UMTRI, NHTSA, and other research labs to assess performance and durability.

For more information on research conducted by UMTRI's Biosciences Group, see Biosciences Research.